Category Archives: Mom & Dad’s Birthday

Parents’ birthdays and Living Nativities

We’re inching closer and closer to Christmas, which means Christmas movies, egg nog, and checking more items off our holiday bucket list. (That apparently includes making enough Chex mix to feed an army.)

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We had a bit of a warm spell last week that made the weather ideal for a visit to an outdoor Living Nativity down the street at Avery Presbyterian Church. It was a lovely, festive little gathering, and I’m glad we go to visit before a passing cold front created a bit of a winter wonderland the next day. The kids got to see and pet a live camel, a donkey, some goats, and a calf all under a tent with folks dressed up as Magi and Shepherds. They also had some lovely shell-shaped sweet rolls for us, along with a table of gifts from “Santa’s Workshop” for kids to pick through to find gifts to give to loved ones. We got them to pick out a few things for all four grandparents. We also got a brief visit with “Santa” for a few pictures before we left. (I also got to overhear a few things for “Santa” to bring our kids come Christmas morning.)

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Saturday brought a blanket of snow to the world, which stayed wet enough to me to shovel without any trouble, leaving our neighborhood quiet picturesque by the end of the day (and nightfall).

My parents also had their birthdays this week, so we celebrated both of them on Saturday afternoon. My dad wanted to go through one of his trunks of treasures with us, which included such things as handmade floor rugs from my grandmother, a Shakespearean tapestry from England, paraphernalia from my parents’ time as missionaries in Brazil, and some unique knick-knacks and tchotchkes made by Brazilian natives, ranging from stylized animal carvings to an actual carved Brazil nut.

My folks opened a couple gifts from us afterward, and then we went down to HyVee to get a bunch of Chinese food for dinner. I also baked my parents a birthday cake, but they’d gotten one of their own from the Uptown Bakery on Fort Crook. They blew out some candles on mine before we ate and then played a few games with my brothers in the living room, including a Family Feud game of all things.

Less than two weeks more until Christmas!

Birthdays and Guinea Pigs

It’s been a busy, busy week, with multiple church programs, birthdays for both my parents, a new candidate running for office, and a new family member for the Johnson family.

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On Friday night, I got to attend the campaign kick-off for Robert Anthony, who’s running for the State Board of Education in the Second District. Because Board of Education districts are different from both congressional and school districts (and since it overlaps with other counties), I had to do a bit of research first to make sure I could vote for him. We had some barbecue from Big Bubba’s Que and talked a bit about educational issues before he gave his stump speech. He’s a strong conservative and actually home-schools his own kids, so he’s tuned in to the sorts of needs homeschooling families likes family would have, and that was encouraging. It’s safe to say he has my vote.

Because I wound up being the one guy with a “Real Camera” for the evening, I wound up snapping a few photos of other guests with Robert before calling it a night. The kids were both asleep when I returned home, and Vivian made up some ahi tuna and scallops for dinner before we watched A Christmas Carol.

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On Saturday, we celebrated my dad’s birthday with the gift of “face time” — i.e. going through a trunk of memorabilia in the basement, looking at some groovy old photos in a few photo albums, and watching a couple old home movies. I was surprised to find a few unique treasures among the family photos and college art projects, including an autographed picture of Mr. Rogers, original campaign posters for Barry Goldwater, and some original artwork from Tribune editorial cartoonist Wayne Stayskal. My dad was friends with Staysakal and apparently gave him ideas for multiple cartoons. When this happened, Stayskal would often send my dad the original artwork, which he kept. (The funniest cartoon, of course, came in the form of a homemade birthday card from Nathan, circa 2002.)

I spent nearly the whole day at my folks’ house, taking a brief break for Arby’s at lunchtime and then heading home as the sun went down.

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On Sunday evening, we had a Christmas program at Wildewood Christian Church (titled “A Country Christmas” for some reason). It was very brief, with just 15 minutes of setting up and decorating a tree interspersed with kids singing a few Christmas songs (with obligatory Christian Hand Motions™). All four grandparents were able to come and see the program, and even Aaron was able to sit still for all 15 minutes of it.

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After the Christmas program, we dropped by the Mills house to meet the newest member of our family — a new baby guinea pig! The Mills had adopted their own guinea pig (named “Ginny”), who unbeknownst to them was already pregnant! She popped out a little baby boy who’s now been weaned and ready for a new home. I’d gotten a cage with bedding and food recently and we were able to set it all up and take our new little pup home that evening. We’re still settling on a name, but Hannah is leaning toward “Scratcher” at the moment.

In the meantime, our poor cat Zoey doesn’t know what to make of this strange creature, who could just as easily be food as a friend.

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And because one birthday visit wasn’t enough, we dropped by my folks’ house again on Tuesday. I made my dad some barley bread, which he’d said a while ago he wanted to try. His father (my grandfather) had mentioned having to eat it during World War I because of food rationing and never liking the taste. Since barley bread is hard to come by, my dad had wanted to try it, so I managed to find some barley flour at Natural Grocers and made him a loaf. It was all right, similar to brown bread or corn bread but much more crumbly (with no gluten holding it together).

We stayed long enough my my folks to open some presents and had a hand-drawn birthday card from Hannah before calling it a night.

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Then on Wednesday night, Hannah and the rest of her friends from MPact had a mid-year awards ceremony in the basement chapel. It was a shorter ceremony than in years past, as the groups didn’t all perform skits or sing songs to show what they’ve been learning so far this year. Everyone on stage got a certificate, and then we stayed just long enough for some punch an cookies before heading home.

Hannah’s been a part of this group since she was a Rainbow, and it’s so nice to see her growing up with all her little friends together!

Singing, Shuck’s, and a Five-Year Plaque

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The Christmas traditions continue as we made our way toward the Big Day. On Saturday night, Vivian and I went to our fifth Pope Paul VI Institute Christmas Party, where I received my commemorative five-year plaque! This year’s party was at the Garden Café, so we enjoyed some comfort food as Institute veteran Terry Little played a medley of Christmas songs (along with songs from the Beatles and other artists thrown in). Terry produced videos for the Institute years ago and performed at its Gala celebrating Humanae Vitae’s 25th anniversary back in 1993. Christmas parties for the Institute are always kind of like homecomings, as many former employees pay a visit after retirement just to catch up with their old co-workers.

Special thanks to Uncle Jonny watching Hannah and Aaron.

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The next day, Grammy watched the kids as we went off to lunch to jointly celebrate my mom and dad’s birthdays at Shuck’s. My dad specifically marked the occasion with shrimp cocktail and a whiskey sour, which he’d enjoyed with a friend some 50 years ago in California (and likely hadn’t had since). I got a haddock basket as the rest of us filled up on seafood (and raw oysters of all things).

We spent a little more kid-free time at my parents’ house afterward, where my parents got their gifts — a copy of Jordan Peterson’s book for Dad and some new slippers, a puzzle, and candy for my mom. She somehow wears through a pair of slippers every year, so they have a perennial place on her Christmas list.

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Then that evening, Hannah got to participate in her very first Christmas program at Wildewood Christian Church. The youth there were able to put on a presentation of the Nativity story, complete with angels and even King Herod having roles. Hannah and the other kids sang a handful of songs (with motions), and it was the first time I got to see Hannah singing and participating on stage without standing stock-still looking terrified.

There were some cookies and crafts for the kids to enjoy afterward, so we stayed long enough to take part in that before heading home.

Two more weeks until Christmas!

Tom & Jeff

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On Thursday last week, Vivian and I spent the evening with Tom Becka and Jeff Koterba, who both gave a brief talk about their careers in broadcasting and editorial cartooning, respectively. The event was held at the Kaneko, which is both an art gallery and studio for Japanese ceramic artist Jun Kaneko (who also attended the event). I was used to rubbing elbows with Tom throughout the Presidential election, and both Vivian and I get to see Jeff occasionally when performing with the Prairie Cats, but this venue was certainly unique. Tom showed clips from “Becka’s Beat” on KPTM, and Jeff showed a handful of his cartoons. They took questions from the audience and then invited everyone to draw our own editorial cartoons and show them to the group.

It was a fun event, but I’ll have to go back sometime to actually look at the gallery itself sometime. We didn’t get to see much more than the room where the talk was held (which contained mostly giant, placid-looking heads).

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On Saturday, we celebrated my parents’ joint birthday at their house for breakfast. I assembled a breakfast casserole that cooked in the slow-cooker overnight, while Vivian made some bacon and cut up strawberries for everyone. My dad made some crispy “rosettes” with powdered sugar (one of his mom’s favorites), which he’d last made for us seven years ago when we visited in North Carolina. He and mom got to open a handful of presents afterwards from both the kids (which they picked out from the Dollar Tree) and us. Nathan and Jonathan also surprised mom and dad with a giant, new TV (which required a bit of assembly afterward).

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Then that evening, Vivian and I went to the Pope Paul VI Institute Christmas Party together. The party committee did a great job with entertainment, which included a pictorial Christmas Song trivia game and a round of Christmas Jeopardy with all the tables competing for prizes. An a capella group from Roncalli Catholic High School sang to us during dinner, and afterward the fun was mostly done, several employees got some festive pictures taken around the Christmas Tree.

I also gave Dr. Hilgers a special present — a picture of our new President-Elect holding a copy of his book. I snapped this photo myself nearly a year ago after handing the book to Mr. Trump from the autograph line at the Mid-America Center. It had been my goal from the beginning to get that book into the hands of the next president. Mission Accomplished!

(I’m going to have another post shortly about this book and the story that went along with it. Stayed tuned for that — it’ll probably be my last political post for a while.)

Mike Huckabee and a Birthday with the folks

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Christmas is coming soon, and that includes such things as our first legitimate snowfall and hanging ornaments on the tree.

It also means a few more presidential candidates wandering through Iowa before Christmas. One of these was Mike Huckabee, who dropped by Iowa Western for a chat with Mark Christian of the Global Faith Institute and Scott Voorhees from KFAB. It was a 90-minute chat revolving mostly around terrorism and religious freedom, though there were questions from the audience on a wide variety of topics. The governor left almost immediately when the event concluded, which left only a few seconds for handshakes before the left the stage (meaning no obligatory selfies with schlubs like me).

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December is also when my mom and dad have their birthdays (the eighth and tenth, respectively), so we had a joint party at their house on Saturday. My dad made ribs for all of us, and my mom made the cake, which Vivian lit up with candles for both of them to blow out simultaneously (something they’ve never done before, strangely enough). Both my brothers were there for the occasion, and my dad showed us a bunch of old photos of our ancestors going back generations all the way to Sweden in a presentation he’d put together. He also had some “stereo” pictures he’d taken of us three boys as kids, but his viewers didn’t cooperate for very long. Among the presents my parents got were a new Roku we bought for the both of them. Now that they have Internet at the house, I was able to rig up Netflix to stream on their TV for the first time.

We had a potluck luncheon at church on Sunday, and singing from all three West girls, but the kids both unexpectedly sick and had to stay home.

Light Shows and Grandparents’ Birthdays

IMG_2512Another busy Christmas season is underway! Last weekend, we decided to get into the spirit by taking Hannah and Aaron out to look at Christmas lights. One of the best locations in Omaha is the posh Linden Estates neighborhood near 144th and Blondo. Hannah got into the spirit yelling “Wow!” at almost every display, and it was even warm enough to get out for a closer look at some of the glowing trees down on Nicholas St. At least three tour buses passed us along the way, as well as a few other cars and even a couple limos, all gawking at the illuminated festivity around us.

IMG_2567The middle of the week, we also celebrated my parents’ birthdays (December 8th and 10th) together for the first time in twelve years. Vivian made a delicious cherry cordial cheesecake that we ate shortly after opening presents. My folks had put up a bunch of the Christmas decorations I’d grown up with, including our Hummel nativity set and the artificial Christmas tree my dad had bought just after getting thoroughly frustrated with the real one he’d bought for my first Christmas. It’s amazing how ting that tree looks after all these years (and how big the incandescent bulbs are compared to today’s tiny LEDs). I’m reminded again and again how nice it is to have the folks so close to home.

Vivian and I got to enjoy another Christmas party with the office on Saturday, and now we’re busy cleaning up for a party of our own next week. In addition, we’re shopping for presents and just got done putting together our Christmas letter, complete with a fresh Christmas photo taken on Sunday. Aaron got to wear his cute little blue suit, which we’re hoping still fits him on Christmas Eve!